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Rep. Jerry Govan proposes Red Flag Law, reaffirms SC Legislative Black Caucus support for Hate Crime Legislation

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Rep. Jerry Govan

Rep. Jerry N. Govan, Jr., Chairman of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, announced he will file a bill to establish a “red flag law,” which would authorize law enforcement to seize firearms and ammunition from an individual if that individual is found to pose a risk of imminent personal injury to himself or others.

A promising method for preventing gun violence, red flag laws have recently garnered bipartisan support across the country.

Under the bill, a solicitor, assistant solicitor, or two law enforcement officers may file a complaint with any probate court for the issuance of a warrant. When considering whether to issue a warrant, a judge shall consider factors, including: recent threats or acts of violence by the person, directed toward himself or others; recent acts of cruelty to animals by the person; the reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm by the person; a history of the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force by the person against others; prior involuntary confinement of the person in a hospital for persons with psychiatric disabilities; and the illegal use of controlled substances or abuse of alcohol by the person.

No later than 7 days after the execution of a warrant, the county probate court must hold a hearing to determine whether any seized firearms and ammunition should be returned to the person. The State has the burden of proving all material facts by clear and convincing evidence.

“This is a commonsense approach to preventing gun violence. If you are a threat to yourself or to those around you, local law enforcement should have the ability to step in – before a tragedy happens,” Govan said. “This bill respects the rights of the individual, it upholds due process, and it will make our communities safer.”

Additionally, Govan reaffirmed the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus’s support for the enactment of a state hate crime statute. Currently, South Carolina is one of four states in the nation without a hate crime law.

“It is time for South Carolina to join the overwhelming majority of states that already have hate crime laws. Hate has no place in our state,” Rep. Govan said.

The renewed support for this legislation comes amid reports of racially-motivated threats involving students from Cardinal Newman School in Richland County.

“Passing a hate crime bill is a top priority for the Black Caucus. It’s not enough to simply condemn this dangerous behavior – we have to criminalize it. We have to give law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need,” Govan stated.

“I promised my constituents after the tragedy at Mother Emanuel that the General Assembly would pass hate crime legislation,” said Rep. Wendell Gilliard, whose district includes the church where nine African-American worshipers were murdered by a white supremacist in 2015. “Four years later, we’re still waiting. I strongly urge my colleagues to support H. 3063, get it out of committee, and onto the floor for a vote.”

H. 3063, which targets those who commit a crime with the intent to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person because of their race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, or homelessness. The bill also penalizes malicious injury to personal and real property.

Gilliard continued, “Hate is not going away. It’s up to us – as one people, as one state – to unite against it. And we do that by putting laws on the books and, more importantly, seeing that the laws are adhered to.”

“Rep. Gilliard’s leadership on this bill should be both recognized and commended,” Govan said. The South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus hate crime bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. It was successfully passed out of subcommittee prior to the end of the legislative session and is slated to come before the full committee in January. The bill has 28 co-sponsors, with more expected to sign on when the General Assembly convenes in January.

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